Last Thursday I was at home alone for a few hours as Kristina had to work late. As I was sitting in the couch reading, I started thinking. “When’s the last time I woke up alone, spent the whole day alone, and went to bed alone?” Strangely enough, I couldn’t remember having had such a day for a very, very long time.
“The monotony and solitude of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind” – Albert Einstein
It was time for me to spend some time alone.
My brief experience with silence and solitude
The train journey from Oslo took just under four hours. I left the station, bought some food, made my way to the cabin and unpacked. “Now what?”.
I went for a walk. It was cold, dark and quiet. This time a year the mountains Norwegian mountains are covered with snow that absorbs sound waves. When there’s no wind and no-one is around what you get is complete silence. It felt nice but also strange. After a few minutes just listening to the silence I got cold and walked back inside.
The cabin was silent too. I’d been here many times before but never alone. I felt a bit uncomfortable. “Was this a bad idea? Maybe I should call someone?”. I resisted the urge and lay down on the couch instead. I didn’t really want to do anything but I’ve learnt over the years that if you just start doing something it usually feels good after a little while. I opened the book “Seeking Wisdom” and started to read.
“Without great solitude no serious work is possible” – Pablo Picasso
Two hours later I was feeling a lot better. The complete silence had relaxed my body and I’d been fully focused on reading all this time. Nice! I was getting hungry so I decided to make some food. As I was chopping vegetables I found myself smiling.
When I had finished eating I sat down in a comfortable chair, doing nothing. After a while my mind started to wander. “What am I spending my time on these days? How am I feeling? What am I grateful for? Am I doing enough for Kristina, my family and friends? Do I have enough excitement in my life? Am I spending too much time learning?” These were difficult questions but I felt calm, composed and relaxed.
The next two days went by in a similar manner. On the train home I reflected on the weekend.
The three key takeaways from the “being alone” experience
- Being alone and in complete silence can feel uncomfortable. To deal with that feeling it’s natural to crave some quick stimulation, for example by playing around with your phone or calling someone. Avoid that urge.
- After a while your mind and body calms down and you start enjoying the silence. You feel far removed from your daily life and you start thinking different thoughts. Interesting questions arise and for once you have the time, patience and quiet required to answer them.
- Through answering such interesting questions you gain perspective. I realised for example that I absolutely love playing sports but that I rarely do it these days.
For me the weekend was pure delight and I came back to Oslo inspired. If you, like me, are rarely alone for 24 hours or more I recommend you do something about that. Being alone and in silence make interesting things happen.
“Silence is a source of great strength”
– Lao Tzu.